Comparisons with Joker started the moment Cruella was announced, so let’s get that out of the way: Cruella was so much more fun to watch. Granted, it was a low bar to clear, Joker being about as much fun as watching a botched execution, but Cruella also has better acting, music, editing, and any technical category you can think of.1
What it doesn’t have is much of a message, at least not one that hasn’t been covered already and in more detail by some other Disney or Disney-adjacent product. Killing your firstborn daughter is a bad idea? (Snow White) Villains are people too? (Maleficent) You know you’re in trouble message-wise when you have your titular character saying out loud the movie poster tagline. “Brilliant. Bad. A little bit mad.” looks great on a wall, sounds awkward coming out of a speaker.
I do, however, wish the camera could stay still for more than a milisecond. Just because you can make every shot glide doesn’t mean you should. This is true for every high-budget movie made in the past 10 years at least but particularly for Cruella, which between the costumes and the set design had potential for some iconic shots. I don’t expect the second coming of Barry Lyndon from a Disney franchise, but how about teaching the young audience to slow down and stay still for a moment? ↩